A Respectable Woman: A Continuation
Read the original story by Kate Chopin HERE
Gouvernail’s second visit on the plantation was planned for the end of the winter and Mrs. Baroda was looking forward to it. She had convinced herself that the feelings towards him that she had experienced during his last stay were the result of a foolish infatuation, or perhaps merely boredom caused by the sudden seclusion after a period of sociabilities and endless diversions. She was sure nothing of the kind was to be feared now, after months spent in harmony with her husband. She was glad she could do Gaston this favor of welcoming and hosting his favorite friend and reproached herself for having prevented it earlier for what appeared now trifling reasons.
She could not, however, help feeling some excitement and curiosity as to how she would find him during this new encounter. She had completely forgotten what he had looked like or what his voice sounded like, but she imagined he must have been very special in some way, because why would she otherwise have felt the way she had?
She was rather surprised, then, when Gouvernail finally arrived and proved to be as unspectacular in his appearance as he had been before. She also felt something like relief, convinced that there was nothing tempting about him at all. His manner, however, was slightly altered this time. He was cheerful, more talkative and generally more like Gaston had always described him. He had an informed opinion on every current topic and would support it with clever arguments in a friendly debate. Mrs. Baroda would often spend the evening listening to her husband and Gouvernail discussing their different views and she would be unable to decide whose arguments were more plausible. For his hostess’s amusement, Gouvernail would tell many anecdotes he had experienced or heard.
When alone with her husband, Mrs. Baroda expressed her delight over the miraculous change in Gouvernail’s manner, partly to please her husband, partly to account for her changed attitude towards him. Mr. Baroda was much pleased and hoped that Gouvernail would be a frequent guest in his home in the future.
Again, when Mr. Baroda was occupied, Mrs. Baroda accompanied Gouvernail in his walks in the vicinity of the plantation. The winter was mild and Gouvernail enjoyed the surrounding nature immensely, having spent most of his life in town. Mrs. Baroda, though not particularly fond of long exercise, enjoyed Gouvernail’s company. His old reserve was gone and she learned a good deal about him and his everyday life. He described to her the boarding house on Dauphine Street in New Orleans where he lived and its peculiar residents; Mrs. Baroda laughed at the lively portrayals, she even exclaimed she would love to visit the house the next time she came to New Orleans, quite forgetting that she had detested boarding houses before. She listened attentively when he talked of his journalistic work or the books he had read over the last couple of months. Occasionally she leaned on him linking arms during these strolls, attributing her longing to press him more tightly to the cold weather.
One evening they went so far from the house that, upon seeing a little cottage nearby, Mrs. Baroda expressed a wish to rest for a while before they turn back. Gouvernail opened the cottage, which stood between two fields for the purpose of storing farming tools, took a piece of cloth from a pile in the corner and cleaned a part of a bench for Mrs. Baroda to sit on. He seated himself on a bench by the opposite wall.
“I had not realized how tired I was myself before I actually sat down!” he said pleasantly.
“Then I am responsible for your realization of your own fatigue. Had we walked straight back you would not have felt any trouble at all. Please accept my apologies.” returned Mrs. Baroda with affected horror.
“Oh no, there is no need for apologies. It is nice to sit down for a little while and I could not forgive myself tiring my dear hostess.”
He then looked out of the window above Mrs. Baroda’s head and seemed to be lost in thought. Mrs. Baroda thus found herself in a situation where she could inconspicuously observe his face and figure and pursue her own train of thoughts. It was not much warmer in the cottage than outside but the air was old and dusty. The atmospheric haze seemed to penetrate Mrs. Baroda’s mind. Suddenly she felt a great longing to get up from her bench, cross the short distance that separated her from Gouvernail, and sit on his lap.
Half following this longing, half wanting to prevent its fulfilment by escape, she hurriedly got up. At a loss for what to do, she stared down at Gouvernail. Aroused from his musing, he looked at her, surprised.
“Do you want to go back already? We have not been sitting for five minutes!”
“Oh let us go, please” she sighed, returning into reality, “I have just realized I must give the cook instructions about supper.”
They set off. Gouvernail resumed his account of the latest affairs in town while Mrs. Baroda, hardly listening, endeavored to assume her usual manner towards him. She could not, would not allow such thoughts enter her mind ever again! But how to prevent them? Her immeadiate reflex was to escape, to go far away from Gouvernail, as she had done the last time. But that was impossible. It had been her suggestion to invite him this time. Gaston would be disappointed, perhaps even cross with her. He would not comprehend: Has she not been getting on with Gouvernail so well? No, she could not leave. She would have to play her part of a friendly hostess until the end. But she had to prevent her being alone with him, somehow, at least.
When they reached the house, they met Gaston on the point of saddling his horse. He had just received a note from his merchant in town who wished to consult him on some point without delay. Gaston was to stay in New Orleans until the following day. He apologized to his friend Gouvernail for leaving him, adding in the same breath that he is certain of his wife’s perfect ability to keep their guest entertained. Mrs. Baroda felt a shiver run down her spine.
When Mr. Baroda returned to the plantation the next day, he found his wife alone. Gouvernail had left him a note explaining that he had been compelled to leave on account of a unique journalistic opportunity he could not yet disclose. Gouvernail’s words were full of genuine regret at his sudden departure, they contained, however, no information as to when he would resume his visit. Mr. Baroda was greatly disappointed and inquired whether his wife knew more about the matter. She seemed distressed and unwilling to talk about Gouvernail at all. Mr. Baroda assumed she was upset by Gouvernail’s leaving her in such an extraordinary manner, she might even feel affronted – no wonder, thought Gaston, considering how close they had become.
That night, Mrs. Barroda lay wide awake beside her sleeping husband. Everything around her was still, but her head was filled with intense buzzing. The night air was cold, but Mrs. Barroda did not feel it as heatwaves of shame swept across her each time she remembered what she would remember for the rest of her life: that she no longer was a respectable woman.